The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed Aseem Sawhney, one of the defence lawyers in the Kathua rape and murder case, as an additional advocate general of the state, drawing criticism from former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.
In an order issued on Tuesday, the state government appointed 31 advocates as additional advocates general, deputy advocates general and government advocates, with 15 in the Kashmir wing of the high court and 16 in the Jammu wing.
One the 16 names of law officers for the Jammu wing is Aseem Sawhney – one of the defence lawyers in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.
Sawhney has been appointed as an additional advocate general.
The appointment has raised eyebrows. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti called it a “shocking violation” of the spirit of justice and alleged that it will encourage “rape culture”. She also voiced hope that the Governor will intervene in the issue.
National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said the decision was both inexplicable and worrisome.
“Ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific rape & (and) murder Kathua case has been appointed as Additional Advocate General,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.
Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers & rapists is abhorrent & a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society.
Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene. 2/2
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) July 18, 2018
Reacting to the issue, Abdullah wrote on Twitter, “The decision is both inexplicable & worrisome but if the victim’s lawyer is not unduly concerned by this development the rest of us should just let her get on with the job of ensuring justice for the young victim.”
The brutal rape and murder of the girl belonging to a minority nomadic community, in a village close to Kathua in Jammu region had sparked outrage in the country. She had disappeared on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
According to the chargesheet, the victim was held in captivity at a small village temple where she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before she was bludgeoned to death.
The trial in the case began on May 31 with the seven accused being produced before the district and sessions judge after the Supreme Court transferred the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab for a fair trial following a plea by the victim’s family.
While transferring the case from Kathua to Pathankot, about 30 km away, the apex court directed day-to-day in-camera trial in the case.